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2017 NCAA Championship Weekend Preview: Maryland Terrapins

The obvious question looms: Can the Terps win their first title since 1975?

NCAA Lacrosse: National Championship-North Carolina vs Maryland Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

As Championship Weekend fast approaches, we will be taking a deep look at the Division I participants leading to Saturday’s semifinals. We’ll have team previews, a spotlight on each coach, and a profile on one of the top players for each team. We’ll also be at Gillette Stadium the entire weekend bringing you tons of content!

Our first team preview is none other than the Maryland Terrapins, who’ve been here for the last four years and six of the last seven seasons. They’ve been the most consistent team in all of college lacrosse for the entire decade, but they haven’t been able to win it all yet. They went to the National Championship game the past two seasons, only to lose to North Carolina and Denver respectively. Is it finally their time to be kings of the college lacrosse world again?

How They Got Here

The starting lineup was in tact for the entire season, except for the Ohio State regular season matchup when attackman Colin Heacock was out with an ankle injury and was replaced by Louis Dubick. John Tillman’s crew began without former starting defenseman Mac Pons for the first half of the season with a lower-body injury. They moved Bryce Young from LSM to close defense and also put sophomore Curtis Corley in a starting role to be alongside senior Tim Muller. Junior Dan Morris was named the starter in goal, replacing Kyle Bernlohr. With the attack of Heacock, Matt Rambo, and Dylan Maltz remaining unchanged, the midfield went through a bevy of changes. Tim Rotanz and freshman Jared Bernhardt joined junior Connor Kelly on the top unit and replaced Henry West and Bryan Cole. With the promotion of Rotanz to the starting midfield, the graduation of Pat Young, and the departure of Lucas Gradinger, the second line lot plenty of depth. Recently in the Albany game, junior Adam DiMillo, senior Ben Chisolm, and freshman Ethan Mintzer made up that unit.

The regular season began with a 15-12 win over Navy, which was a top 20 team at the time. There were some questions about how the defense and Morris would be after that shaky performance, but the Terps managed to dominate St. Joe’s and High Point in their next two games. A marquee matchup followed against Yale, which was all Maryland up until midway through the third quarter, when the Bulldogs, who did not have Ben Reeves, scored six of the last seven goals to make it a one-goal margin, but the Terrapin defense stood strong at the end.

Maryland lost to Notre Dame in a 5-4 snoozer, and their road game the following week against Albany was postponed to April due to cold weather. They returned home to face Villanova, and played catch-up for most of the game, before tying it up in overtime. But Danny Seibel gave the Wildcats the unthinkable upset in the extra session. It shook the team, and it gave them a new vigor entering Chapel Hill for a title rematch with the Tar Heels. That started a five-game winning streak, which also included then-No. 1 Penn State, Albany, and Rutgers in a span of eight days.

With Heacock out, the Terps fell to the Buckeyes in overtime in Columbus. Maryland led 7-2 at one point, but the Buckeyes managed to score six straight goals to take control of the game. But Maryland rebounded in a remarkable way with a 12-5 trouncing of archrival Johns Hopkins to end the regular season, and took care of business in the Big Ten Tournament against Penn State and Ohio State.

In the NCAA Tournament, they knocked off Bryant, 13-10, and demolished Albany, 18-9, in what was thought as a possible semifinal matchup.

By The Numbers

12.88 - Maryland’s goals per game. That’s good for 10th in the nation. To put that to context, their semifinal opponent, Denver, averages 13.81 goals a game (fifth in the nation).

9.00 - Maryland’s goals against per game, which is 16th in the nation. Denver lets up 8.75 goals a game (13th in the nation).

35.9% - Maryland’s shot percentage, which is best in the nation. Denver has a 34.7% shot percentage, tied for fifth in the country.

42 - Connor Kelly’s goal total for the season, one in front of Denver’s Connor Cannizzaro (41), and two in front of teammate Matt Rambo (40).

43 - Matt Rambo’s assist total for the season, which is a career-high. His previous assist totals: 6, 19, and 32.

3-13 & 12-14 - Face-off totals for Austin Henningsen and Jon Garino, Jr. respectively last week against Albany’s TD Ierlan, who is second behind Denver’s Trevor Baptiste in face-off win percentage.

1975 (obligatory) - The year that Maryland last won a men’s lacrosse championship.

Season Turning Point

It has to be the overtime loss to Villanova. It could have been the two week gap between games since Albany was moved to mid-April, but the loss to a team the Terps knew they should have conquered was a definite wake-up call. From that game, they managed to go 10-1 in their last 11 games, with nine of them coming against teams that were ranked in both the media and coaches polls.

I also thought playing against top-ten opponents Penn State, Albany, and Rutgers in a span of eight days proved to be a big turning point during the season as well. Two of those games were on the road, and those three wins has led them to be the favorite to win it all coming into this weekend.

One Big Question

Well, we actually have two. First, how will Henningsen deal with Beast Baptiste? When Baptiste faced off against Charlie Raffa in the National Championship game two years ago, the then-freshman went 10-of-19 against the senior. Henningsen will need to depend on his wings more than ever to try and make it a 50-50 chance for the ground ball. I wouldn’t be surprised if Garino got a few draws as well, given how well he did against Ierlan on Sunday.

Then the second big question:

Knowing Rambo from high school and his Philly accent, I can confirm he said “pans.” Hopefully they’re very clean for this weekend, because I think I can smell what Maryland might be cooking.